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No. 10, October 2000
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The White House Staff 
The history book by Bradley H. Patterson jr.
Get the book from Amazon.com
Article added on October 11, 2000
 
The The White House Staff is a sequel to Patteron's 1988 book, Ring of Power. The author has interviewed some 130 men and women over the course of three years. Patterson himself has first hand knowledge about the subject since he has lived and worked in Washington for fifty-five years, fourteen of them in the White House, where he served on the staff of three presidents: Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford. Patterson has also served as national president of the American Society of Public Administration and is a senior fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He is a graduate of the National War College and earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Chicago.
 
The 125 offices of the contemporary White House staff constitute the policy center of the executive branch of the American government. But the Constitution includes not a word about them, and they are barely mentioned in the statute. "Staff members have zero legal authority in their own right, yet 100 percent of  presidential authority passes through their hands". Therefore, Patterson's book is not only useful, but a necessary tool for everybody who wants to understand how the White House, with its nearly 5,900 employees and a budget of an estimated $730 million annually, functions.
 
Forty-six principal White House offices are engaged in specialized services, aided by twenty-eight senior policy support groups. Fifty-one additional offices contain the three quarters of the staff who are nonpolitical professionals. In chapter one and two, Patterson portrays each of the forty-six major policy offices. Among them are the National Security Council with its nineteen subsections, Domestic and Economic Policy Councils, Counsel to the President and the office of the Vice President's spouse. Chapter three illuminates the fifty-one professional and support offices of the White House. Patterson not only describes the functions of the various offices and offers recent examples of their work but he also analyzes the problems and issues that each policy unit needs to address in the long term. He also addresses the controversial discussion about the large size of the White House staff as well as the total White House budget.
 
"Part 4 looks ahead. President Bush (1989-92), in managing national security affairs, and President Clinton, more generally (particularly during his second term), seem to have succeeded in dampening the old animosities between the cabinet and the White House staff. Will the animosities resurface?" Patterson asks what governs the White House staff's accountability, whether anonymity is still the universal desideratum or what new physical facilities are on the drawing board for the White House.
 
Although the author draws some examples from presidents of the more distant past, he concentrates on the changes during the Bush and Clinton administration. "The focus here is not on the president but on the staff; the emphasis is not on what the presidents did but on how the staff supported them. The objective here is not to judge the wisdom or success of any president's policies ..." Of course, this book is not an exhumation of the Lewinsky affair or other scandals, but Patterson gives a series of (sometimes amusing) details about the White House. A book anyone interested in American politics should read, not only because it is election year, but also because policy development, coordination, articulation and even sometimes implementation have been taken away from the cabinet departments and drawn into the White House itself.
 
Bradley H. Patterson jr.: The White House Staff. Brookings Institution Press, 2000, 491 p. Get it from Amazon.com.

www.cosmopolis.ch
No. 10, October 2000
current edition & archives
Art  Film  Music  History  Politics  Archives
Links  For Advertisers  Feedback  German edition  Travel

Copyright 2000  www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.